"There's no place like home ... there's no place like home" was the mantra heard as a sepia-hued Jay Leno woke up in a farmhouse surrounded by several friends, including "The Tonight Show" bandleader Kevin Eubanks and Ross "The Intern" Matthews. The host fruitlessly attempted to recount stories from a faraway land but was quickly informed that he was simply suffering from a serious head injury.
"He took quite a hit," Matthews assessed, "but he's going to be just fine."
Hearkening back to the classic "The Wizard of Oz" scene, the silver-haired late-night host returned to "The Tonight Show" on Monday night (March 1), and it almost felt as if he had never left. Despite a brief mention of the watchful eyes of David Letterman and Oprah Winfrey and a quick opening quip at NBC's expense -- "I'm Jay Leno, your host ... at least for a while!" -- Leno barely acknowledged his brief absence from the hosting gig and the controversy surrounding former host Conan O'Brien's unceremonious departure.
Instead, Leno focused his opening monologue on current events, including the Olympics, the financial climate, airline security, Toyota's safety woes and Tiger Woods' marital issues. He also unveiled several new bits such as "How Boring Is Alan Greenspan," "The World's Tightest Pants" and "The Great Desk Search," where the host went door-to-door throughout Burbank, California, alongside surprise guests Adam Carolla and Randy Jackson in search of a new desk for his late-night return.
The award for most enthusiastic participant easily went to Academy Award-winning actor and musician Jamie Foxx. As Leno's first guest, Foxx rushed out to the audience, led the crowd in a "welcome back" chant and sprayed a bottle of champagne all over the studio. Foxx spoke with the host about his daughter's recent 16th birthday party, flirting with Kirstie Alley on "Oprah" and his first car. He also reminisced over his recent victory at the Grammy Awards for "Blame It on the Alcohol," excitedly recounting the evening and spilling his mug of water in the process.
"Why don't you take an Ambien and we'll go to commercial," Leno joked at his energetic guest's expense.
Leno's second guest was Olympic gold medalist Lindsey Vonn, a more subdued but no less enthusiastic presence than Foxx. The alpine ski racer arrived to loud chants of "USA, USA, USA" and proceeded to show off her recently earned gold medal to both Foxx and Leno. "I'm so thankful it worked out," she said of her victory. "You only get one shot to get these medals."
Vonn told Leno that she plans to take a red-eye flight to Switzerland following the show for another skiing competition in two days.
Musical guest Brad Paisley closed out Leno's "Tonight Show" return with his performance of the title track from his recent album American Saturday Night. In the show's closing moments, Leno offered a very brief thank you and wished Jimmy Fallon a happy anniversary, as tonight marks one year since the former "Saturday Night Live" comedian assumed O'Brien's role as the host of "Late Night."